Strength

Softness goes with strength, at least in toilet paper adverts…

Where is the strength in trans femininity, strength I can feel and exert rather than observe from the sidelines, ruefully thinking that’s just not me, I could not possibly be like that? The manly strength I aspired to when I sought to Be a Man, that idea of strength gets in the way of finding strength now. Strength in endurance does not feel enough.

In Walter Scott, there is a wife who makes all the important decisions, managing her husband so he imagines they are his. On less important decisions she will give way to him, to preserve the illusion. Manly directness fails before feminine wiles. Being clever, I like the idea of cleverness, persuasiveness, winning, but am infected with cultural attitudes ascribing virtue to qualities ascribed to men. Is “virtue” linked to the Latin for “man”? Latin “virtu” translates to “power”.

There is passive strength, strength to endure. When women stand up for themselves, this is called “sassy”- disrespectful- “Feisty”, which derives from the German for fart, meaning unpleasantly intrusive on attention, or “nasty”, a word which women are claiming. They are called “viragos”, aping men. There is huge cultural pressure against women behaving in that way.

Alexis and Barry debated women’s strength here. I don’t know whether Barry’s experience of women’s equality is specifically a Kiwi perspective. She defined strength as self-discipline, ambition, and emotional stability. These are certainly virtues, but unshowy. They will make confrontation easier, but don’t define how one acts in a confrontation. And, convinced of my wrongness, trying to see how I ought to be, has corroded my emotional stability. Because I fear my emotions, they overwhelm me.

Self-discipline, ambition and emotional stability could be stronger in a confrontation, where physical violence is not permitted- like most confrontations in civilised society. Then the attempt to intimidate is as much a sign of weakness as wheedling is, and calm insistence is strength.

Does being “compassionate, tolerant and fair” make one less likely to stand up for onesself? Possibly, but not necessarily less likely to achieve goals. For the most tolerant and fair person there is the moment you dig your heels in. Then emotion comes to the fore, visibly expressed. That is the moment of weakness. “You’re getting emotional” is a trump card- therefore you must be irrational, and wrong. The compassionate person sees the blind spots of the other, and sees how far the other might be led; and so leads consensus. Together, we are stronger.

Of these virtues, I feel emotional stability is the thing I need to work on, by emotional understanding and self-acceptance.

2 Corinthians comes to mind- Power is made perfect in weakness…When I am weak, then I am strong. I went to look it up; and I still don’t get what it means.

olga-boznanska-portrait-of-a-woman-in-a-white-dress

4 thoughts on “Strength

  1. For the most tolerant and fair person there is the moment you dig your heels in“. I think that goes without saying. One cannot be tolerant to the point that a situation becomes unfair. How one reacts then is dependent on one’s personality. For myself, it’s very much a John Woolman style, But I don’t see wearing one’s emotion on one’s sleeve as being a sign of weakness. I certainly don’t equate being emotional with being irrational or wrong, In fact, I don’t see any relationship at all. It’s perfectly possible to be completely calm while being totally irrational and absolutely wrong.

    To my mind, there’s no doubt that what constitutes strength is determined to a large extent by culture and circumstance. For example, what many Americans perceive as strength on the international scene is often perceived as bullying by other nations, and therefore a vice instead of a virtue.

    Being non-confrontational is, I think, a Kiwi trait. For example, we prefer politicians that appear humble (with a quiet confidence) over those that appear loud and proud. I think one of the reasons we chose MMP was because it requires a high level of cooperation and consensus to work.

    By all means, work on emotional understanding and self-acceptance. If emotional stability occurs as an outcome of that, so be it, but I wouldn’t make it a goal. Perhaps I look at emotion much like seasoning: Not enough and the result is flat and uninteresting; too much and the result is unpalatable; but in the right amounts, the results are amazing and exciting.

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    • Yesterday, I felt fully my pain after an encounter; and it was exhilerating. I sat with it, aware and accepting it. It seemed that it was strong enough to move me to tears, even anguished wailing, but that I would wail like that if it needed to communicate to me that it was so strong, if I was not listening to it. This seems to me to be self-acceptance, a strong foundation for acceptance of others. So I would not show emotion, necessarily. Someone wrote that she took a long time to realise that when she spoke in anger, anger was all her audience heard.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Let us value and celebrate it. Love is strong. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities.

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